The Women’s Center at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center is now the first and only hospital in Central Texas offering water births.

In early spring, two rooms were outfitted with birthing tubs and the staff was trained to offer this birthing option to Fort Hood women, said Mary Loftin, a certified nurse midwife with the center. Since then, about a dozen or so babies have been born using the method, which allows for pain management without medication.

“People have been asking for it the whole 12 years I’ve been here,” she said.

The tubs also allow for water therapy, which helps manage the pain leading up to labor, but women get out of the water before the birth and into a bed, Loftin said.

Two years ago, the women’s center moved into its own wing of Darnall. The new facility boasts nine labor and delivery rooms, each with windows and plenty of room. The move is what allowed space for the tubs, Loftin said.

“The great thing about the new wing is updated equipment,” she said.

Because Darnall doesn’t have the staff to man the wing at full capacity, only seven of the nine rooms are running, Loftin said. On-post birth rates for this year are at an average of 230 a month.

“If we had more staff, we could do more, but the staffing is very good right now,” Loftin said.

Another benefit to the larger delivery rooms, is that pediatrics can be in the room for births where emergency needs are anticipated.

“It’s helped us because we can go and assist with the delivery and have space and the capacity to work in them,” said Maj. Ryan Moore, a neonatologist and chief of Darnall’s Department of Pediatrics. He’s been at Darnall for four years and seen the benefits of the move first-hand.

Before the center opened, mothers delivering babies at-risk would be taken to an operating room for the birth.

“Overall, patients are happier,” Moore said.

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